Pentagon top positions start taking shape

Pentagon top positions start taking shape

Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) / Chief Financial Officer David Norquist, left, greets Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) before the hearing on Norquist’s nomination to be deputy secretary of defense, Washington, D.C, on July 24. (Lisa Ferdinando/DoD))

WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed David Norquist to be deputy defense secretary, giving the Pentagon confirmed individuals in its top two civilian positions for the first time this year.

Norquist has been the Pentagon’s comptroller since 2017, which essentially is the No. 4 civilian position in the Pentagon. Once he is formally appointed to the deputy secretary post, the process will begin to nominate his replacement.

He was approved Tuesday on a voice vote by the Senate.

The No. 3 civilian position at the Pentagon, the chief management officer, is being handled by Lisa Hershman. She has been nominated but has not had her paperwork sent to the Senate.

There are roughly 50 senior positions in the Pentagon requiring Senate confirmation that remain empty or are filled by individuals in “acting” capacity.

Last week the Senate confirmed Mark Esper as defense secretary and Gen. Mark Milley as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top civilian and military positions, respectively. Esper’s first full day was last Wednesday; Milley will assume his position in September when the current chair, Gen. Joe Dunford, retires.

On Wednesday morning, the Senate Armed Service Committee held a hearing on the nomination of Vice Adm. Michael Gilday to be chief of naval operations. That is the top position in the Navy.

If approved, Gilday will receive a fourth star and sit on the joint chiefs of staff. He has been the director of the Joint Staff since March 1. The leap-frogging of a three-star over four-star admirals, who will stay at their current commands, is rare.

Gilday’s elevation came after Adm. Bill Moran, former Vice Chief of Naval Operations who had been nominated by President Donald Trump and confirmed by the Senate for the post, opted to retire. Moran said he stepped aside because of an open investigation into emails he exchanged with a retired former staffer “who had while in uniform been investigated and held accountable over allegations of inappropriate behavior,” the Navy said.

Moran was to begin in the top spot on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the same committee had an open hearing on the nomination of Gen. John Hyten, current head of U.S. Strategic Command, to be vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hyten has been accused of sexual assault by Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, a senior member of his staff.

Spleltstoser has publicly accused him of assaulting her in a California hotel room in 2017 during a defense policy trip. She talked to the committee behind closed doors but was not permitted to testify during the public hearing on Tuesday. She sat in the first row during the hearing.

Hyden said “nothing happened, ever” between him and Spletstoser.

The accusations were dismissed by military officials after a lengthy investigation.

Committee chair Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said a final vote by the Senate on Hyten’s confirmation could come this week, before members leave for a long summer recess on Friday. However, several committee members said they would oppose moving too quickly until unanswered questions are resolved.

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